BORN in Kibawe in the Philippines, eight days before Christmas in 1978, Manny Pacquiao’s childhood was not filled with cheer. His family struggled to survive such was the poverty, and Pacquiao has told tales of eating just once a day and sleeping in the street. Exactly what he ate on certain days left a lot to be desired. There is a story that goes: family starving so daddy kills the dog and cooks it.
At the age of 16, the teenage waif – often forced to use his fists to survive on the streets – sneaks on to a ferry to Manila, and lies about his age (says he’s 18) so he can become a professional boxer. The malnourished youngster is unbeaten in his first 11 fights but the temptations that money brings – gambling and alcohol – soon hack away at his natural discipline and he loses fight No.12 when Rustin Torrecampo flattens the flyweight (108lbs) in three rounds.
Shocked by his stumble, he vows to take the sport seriously again.
FIRST WORLD TITLE
FOLLOWING the first loss of his career, Manny Pacquiao wins his next 12 fights (11 by knockout) to set up a shot at respected WBC flyweight champion Chatchai Sasakul. The bout [above] takes place in the outdoor Tonsuk College Ground in Phuttamonthon, Philippines.
Sasakul had lost only one bout of 33 and, over the first seven rounds against Pacquiao, appears to be heading towards another victory. But the Filipino uncorks two left hands to knock out the champion in the eighth and claim his first world title two weeks before his 20th birthday.
But Pacquiao is starting to fill out. After a lifetime of scrimping and scraping for food, the youngster is eating regularly and, probably belatedly, maturing physically. He just about makes the 112lb weight limit for his first defence (a win over Gabriel Mira), but he is drained for his next one. After starving himself, and several attempts to vomit out the last dregs of mass from his emaciated frame before the weigh-in, he comes in too heavy. Only the title will be on the line for Medgoen Singsurat, who makes the most of the opportunity by knocking out a drained Pacquiao with a body shot in round three.
Again Manny vows to learn lessons from defeat and in 2001 makes a decision that will turn his fortunes around when he wanders into Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym in Hollywood.
MANNY PACQUIAO and Freddie Roach’s relationship takes off. The American coach begins to shape one of the greatest fighters from modern times from the furious and unkempt brilliance the Filipino brings. Growing rapidly, Pacquiao leapfrogs two divisions and lands in the super-bantamweight division. In June 2001 – on the undercard of Oscar De La Hoya’s win over Javier Castillejo – Manny wows the fans at the MGM Grand when he batters IBF champion, Lehlo Ledwabu in six rounds.
It’s his second world title but his real breakthrough occurs two years later when he thrashes the great Mexican, Marco Antonio Barrera, in 11 savage rounds in a featherweight title fight. The beating makes the boxing world sit bolt upright and take notice. The Filipino’s ludicrously fast limbs are too much for Barrera but Pacquiao is far from perfect.
Although his hands move rapidly, there is an obvious reliance on his left. The right mitt lacks education and serves as little more than a rangefinder for his favoured weapon. And his feet, though quick, often clumsily leave him square on and vulnerable to counters.
For now, though, it doesn’t matter. Pacquiao is the most exciting young fighter on the planet.
ANOTHER brilliant Mexican, Juan Manuel Marquez, looks set to be the latest fighter to crumble beneath Manny Pacquiao’s fury in 2004.
Dropped three times in the opening round, Marquez is on the brink. But he defiantly survives and begins his comeback. Over the next 11 rounds, Pacquiao’s technique deficiencies are exposed and he’s thought fortunate to be awarded a draw by the judges.
Ten months later, it’s a defeat. Mexico’s superb Erik Morales wins a unanimous 12-round decision – cutting Manny along the way – that underlines Pacquiao’s problems. His trainer Freddie Roach constructs a plan to correct them, and the Filipino is forced to use his right hand – over and over – in the gym.
In a rematch with Morales, Pacquiao deploys lateral movement and his right hand to better effect. Erik – so confident beforehand – is hammered to defeat in 10 rounds. There is a rubber match and Pacquiao’s improvement even more evident as he batters his rival into third round submission.
Manny follows that by outscoring both Marco Antonio Barrera and Marquez in returns to complete an impressive run of form against Mexican fighters.
MANNY PACQUIAO embarked on one of most impressive runs of form in modern boxing history in 2008. With world titles in three weight classes bagged, and supremacy secured in four, the southpaw sets his sights on lightweight and WBC boss, David Diaz. Pacquiao was ferocious, dominating before icing his rival in the ninth.
“I’m more experienced, especially my strategy and techniques, and more improved in my right hand, and also movement side to side, and timing,” Pacquiao noted at the time. “I’ve learned how to be a counter-puncher as well as an aggressive fighter.”
Armed with his new box of tricks, Pacquiao aims even higher. In a matchup masterminded by trainer Freddie Roach, Manny agrees to go into battle against the most popular fighter in boxing, Oscar De La Hoya at welterweight (a weight class almost 40lbs higher than when he turned professional). Many scoff at the former flyweight’s chances against the bigger man but it’s no contest at all. Pacquiao sets about the ageing and weight-drained warrior from the off, and after eight one-sided sessions, De La Hoya – swollen, bruised and ashamed – quits on his stool.
What follows is stunning. In 2009 he drops down to light-welterweight and sparks Britain’s Ricky Hatton in two rounds before jumping back to 147lbs and handing great Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto the kind of shellacking that might have ruined a lesser fighter.
He closed 2010 by scything through the much bigger Antonio Margarito to bag a world light-middleweight title. At this point, Pacquiao is considered almost invincible.
MANNY PACQUIAO is not content sitting around doing nothing. In May 2010, Pacquiao was elected to the House of Representatives in the 15th Congress of the Philippines, representing the province of Sarangani. He was re-elected in 2013 to the 16th Congress of the Philippines.
A hero of gargantuan proportions in Manila, Pacquiao’s presence causes the city to come to a halt. He appears in television commercials, and his roadwork is often sabotaged by coaches of female fans desperate to catch a glimpse of their idol.
But, of course, with adulation comes temptation and Pacquiao almost loses everything that is dear to him as a result.
FAME often comes with a price and Manny Pacquiao’s marriage almost collapses in late 2011. As well as carving out a career in politics, finding time to play basketball [above], and releasing records, Pacquiao also owns bars and pool halls. Stories of infidelities get louder and louder until his wife Jinkee reaches her limit and tells Manny she’s leaving. Hours before he fights Juan Manuel Marquez for the third time (winning a highly controversial decision over 12), he is begging her to come and watch him fight.
While promising to change his ways, Pacquiao dedicates himself to religion and the Christian faith. Freddie Roach – Pacquiao’s trainer – voices his concern about the latest direction his fighter is heading.
“He doesn’t have that killer instinct anymore. He feels he doesn’t have to hurt people, he just has to beat them. But that’s the way it goes.”
Certainly, things are about to change.
MANNY PACQUIAO’S run of 15 fights and seven years without a loss came to a cruel end on June 9, 2012.
Inside the labyrinthine walls of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Timothy Bradley was awarded a decision over Pacquiao that puzzled the vast majority that watched. Almost all the media in attendance felt that the Filipino, now 33, had done more than enough to earn the decision. Boxing News’ Daniel Herbert – a veteran of almost 30 years ringside reporting – scored the bout 119-109 in the favourite’s favour.
But the judges, perhaps swayed by Pacquiao getting a contentious nod over Juan Manuel Marquez in 2011, scored the fight 115-113, 115-113 and 113-115 in favour of Bradley.
The fans were furious with the decision and any possibility of Pacquiao fighting Floyd Mayweather looked further away than ever before. But in just six months time, the superfight went from being a long shot, to virtually impossible.
JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ was eager to beat Manny Pacquiao after three debatable decisions. Some would argue that the Mexican had deserved all three but the best he had received was a draw in their opening showdown.
So when the duo agreed to Part IV, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in December 2012, all everyone involved wanted was a definitive result. And they got it.
After five rounds of super-charged action the contest seemed to be going Manny’s way. He had recovered from a knockdown in the third, upped the pressure, and decked Marquez in the fifth. “I didn’t think the fight was going to last much longer,” Freddie Roach would describe about his feelings after five rounds. He thought his charge was about to conclude their rivalry at last.
And then it happened. With Pacquiao pressing his advantage he left himself square on to a counter right hand. The punch flew only a short distance but its effect was felt all over the world. Manny collapsed, face-first, unconscious, defeated. His wife screamed in terror as the father of her children lay motionless on the deck.
Marquez ran across the ring with his arm aloft in victory. He had done it. He had beaten Pacquiao. And in doing so, he seemed to end any chance we had of seeing the Filipino one day face Floyd Mayweather.
FOLLOWING back-to-back losses to Timothy Bradley (controversial) and Juan Manuel Marquez (emphatic), Manny Pacquiao’s career was in tatters.
But, with an alleged tax bill that was spiralling out of control, and a desire to prove he was still a major force, he embarked on a comeback.
In November 2013, almost one year after being flattened by Marquez, Pacquiao took on Brandon Rios in Macau. Rios was a decent opponent but made for Manny, who did as he pleased before winning a lopsided decision. If the jury were unconvinced by that showing, they were far more impressed by what followed.
In April 2014, Pacquiao went back for seconds with Bradley and this time there was no doubting who was the better man. Pacquiao turned in his finest performance in years to win a unanimous decision and become the first to (officially) beat the American.
Suddenly there were whispers again about a Floyd Mayweather showdown. And they got louder and louder during the build-up to Pacquiao’s November 2014 thrashing of Chris Algieri.
Pacquiao had won three fights in a row, barely losing a round in the process. Perhaps they were not vintage performances but they illustrated that, yet again, he had learned the lessons from defeat.
Mayweather will be the next to test the resurgence.
SHOULDERING THE BLAME
Ultimately, Pacquiao was soundly beaten by Mayweather in an anti-climactic fight. Afterward, he revealed that he had aggravated a shoulder injury during the fight. It transpired that Pacquiao had injured his shoulder during training, and there were disputes over whether or not he should have disclosed this information before the fight.
Regardless, he underwent surgery and returned for what he said would be his final fight, a third meeting with Bradley. The Filipino icon looked phenomenal, twice dropping Bradley to earn a unanimous decision.
His retirement was predictably short-lived. He returned to the ring in November, thrashing WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas in Las Vegas. Attention now turns to a likely fight against Australia’s Jeff Horn, but it’s a rematch with Mayweather that Pacquiao really wants.